9/4/2009—On August 27, Conservative columnist for the Jewish Chronicle in Pittsburgh Abby Wise Schachter criticized President Barack Obama over healthcare. No surprise there. But the ground was mixing church and state. Obama had addressed a conference call to 1000 rabbis some days before, saying among other things, “We are God’s partners in matters of life and death.” Schachter asked sarcastically how Obama learned of God’s endorsement of the public option.
Fair enough. No one can claim that God supports some particular public policy by some particular political party. (Did Schachter criticize George Bush on similar grounds over his claim that God told him to invade Iraq? Maybe she did). And Schachter was also on good ground to criticize Obama for suggesting, if he did, that rabbis should talk about healthcare reform during the high holy days.
But Schachter went much further. She wrote, “Employing moral/religious reasoning in support of a public policy issue is inappropriate.” And she quoted Rabbi Josh Yuter criticizing “the blurring of church and state.”
Now wait a minute. One of the criticisms of the Obama plan—false, but still repeated—-is that end-of-life counseling pushes people into suicide. What is that if not a moral claim? For that matter, is Schachter serious that even “moral” reasoning has no place in public life? That would surprise Abraham Lincoln. And if God is really irrelevant to public policy, if God does not care whether a society cares for the widow, the orphan and the sick, what were the prophets talking about? Judaism considers such responsibilities communal, not individual. (That does not mean Obama’s plan is a good idea; it only means that people dying from lack of healthcare would be a religious issue as well as a political one).
I don’t blame Schachter. She is just repeating the nonsense of separation of church and state that is in the air. I blame liberals trying to cleanse the public square of all religious language. Schachter’s column is the result.